Students in the M.A. Program in Climate and Society Give Presentations at Local High Schools and Libraries

Students in the M.A. Program in Climate and Society Give Presentations at Local High Schools and Libraries

As part of their core course, Dynamics of Climate Variability and Climate Change, students in the M.A .Program in Climate and Society (CS) are giving presentations at local high schools and libraries across New York City and its suburbs.

This 12-month, intensive graduate degree began in 2004 to train professionals and academics to understand and cope with the impacts of climate variability and climate change on society and the environment. Taking the scientific knowledge they have gained throughout the semester, students learn to distill a particular climate issue, make it relevant and interesting, and present it to a public audience.

Dr. Lisa Goddard, a research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society and the professor of the course, states the importance of communicating climate change: “I believe it is important to communicate clearly on climate change, because it is such an important topic that has been, and continues to be, misrepresented often by both skeptics and zealots. One of the most important messages about climate change, at least as we experience it, is that it will not happen in isolation. Natural year-to-year variability will dominate our local experience with the climate, in most cases. In this way, trends due to man-made climate change act to increase or decrease our odds of certain climate events, and open the possibility for experiencing unprecedented climate events.”

Brian Kahn, CS ’09, and his three group members gave a presentation entitled “Aerosols: A problem to Aero-solve?” to students at the Young Women’s Leadership School in East Harlem last week. Brian states: “It was a great opportunity to step outside of the climate science we've been intensively studying this semester and apply it to real world questions. Having spent the semester really exploring climate change in depth, it was tough to decide which thread of climate change we wanted to focus on and then how to boil it down to a 40-minute presentation. For me, the best part of going into a high school was how heartening it was to see how much the kids already knew about climate change, and that they were critically thinking of how to adapt in the future.”

There are twelve presentations in all, encompassing climate issues from the impact of aerosols on climate and health to the ocean’s role in global warming. A complete list of presentations titles and descriptions is below.

Library Presentations are OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, for more information about times and venues, visit the CS website.

Prospective students interested in learning about the MA in Climate and Society program are encouraged to contact Arezou Raeisghasem at 212-854-9896 or at for more information.


Library Presentations:

Title: Breaking the Ice: Carbon, Climate, and Change
Description: Join four Columbia University graduate students in a facilitated workshop about understanding climate change. Find out how scientists know the story of Earth's climate. Also learn some skills for interpreting and discussing the science behind climate change.

Title: How Certain Can We Be About Climate Change?
Description: The presentation will address greenhouse gases and aerosols, their relative impacts on the climate system, the uncertainties in estimating these impacts, and how much we can attribute to human activities.

Title: What's the Big Deal about One Degree?
Description: Climate change over the 21st century will not be the same everywhere. This presentation will discuss how a small change in global average temperature can result in differing, sometimes dramatic, regional effects, particularly in the case of precipitation changes.

Title: Did 'we' do that? Natural and man-made causes of climate change
Description: One common "myth" about climate change is that natural variations in the climate system explain the changes we are seeing today, and that human contributions are minor or nonexistent. This presentation will discuss major sources of natural climate variability and explain how we know that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are contributing to current changes in the climate.


High Schools:

Title: Aerosols: A Problem to Aero-solve?
Description: Aerosols have far-reaching effects on both climate and health,some of which are beneficial and some of which are negative. In our changing world, deciding what we should do about aerosol emissions is difficult and has big tradeoffs.

Title: Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow
Description: What is global warming? How do we know that humans are causing it? Will a few degrees really matter? And what can we do to stop it? With our presentation, we will show the science behind these questions - some of the biggest questions of our time. We may not know all the answers, but we know where to start looking. Our Climate Change FAQ presentation will address three big questions by showing the science at work behind them - and arming students with some knowledge necessary for understanding the debate.

Title: Reasons for Seasons
Description: What gives rise to seasons as we see them today and what happens over longer time-scales of several centuries and millennia. Where is our Earth in the long climatic time-scale? How do ice ages occur, why do they end and can they occur again? Can these natural cycles be influenced by human activities?

Title: Hurricanes in a Warming World: Is Global Warming Affecting North Atlantic Hurricane Activity?
Description: This presentation will explore the physical mechanisms behind hurricanes and global warming, and how global warming is potentially affecting hurricane intensity, frequency, and pattern.  Three main scientific viewpoints will be discussed regarding the controversial relationship between hurricanes and a warming world, along with how future changes could impact New York.

Title: Ocean’s role in a warming world: Thermohaline circulation and its implications
Description: The thermohaline circulation (THC) is a part of ocean circulation driven by density difference in seawater, which depends on temperature and salinity. The THC is an important part of the climate system, as it regulates and distributes heat across the globe. As the greenhouse gases increase, the scientists project the world to become a warmer world in which evaporation, precipitation and runoff are expected to increase. These changes could impact the dynamics of THC. We explain the mechanism of THC and examine its plausible responses by global warming, and what it could mean for the people (you) living in the future!

Title: A Drowning Earth: Sea Level Rise In The Warming World
Description: A look a the science behind sea level rise including an explanation of its two sources, thermal expansion and mass increases. An overview of the issues associated with projecting sea level rise will be discussed along with images of altered coastlines under various sea level scenarios.

Title: Will Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head?: Climate change impacts on the hydrologic cycle with a focus on Hadley Circulation
Description: In all the hype about climate change, regional and global precipitation changes often do not make the headlines. The importance of the effects of climate change on the hydrologic cycle is underestimated, and this issue demands the attention of scientists and decision makers. In this talk we will present the implications of climate change on our water cycle with a focus on a very important mechanism of circulation, the Hadley Cell. What will the future of our hydrologic cycle be, both globally and locally at home in New York?

Title: Climate M&Ms
Description: Columbia University's Climate and Society program will have four graduate students present on climate change myths and misconceptions.  Topics to be covered include basic climate change, solar forcing, sea level rise, and regional impacts of climate change.